Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

This was our first time taking up hay on this large a scale, and I learned a lot. Some things we did well, some things could use improvement, and others we did horribly.

Carry Scissors

In addition to carrying a knife, scissors would be a safer alternative in some situations. When I cut my thumb fixing the knot on the baler, it was caused by using my knife to both pry under the twine and try to cut it. If I used scissors, I could safely snip away at it until I cut all the way through which removes the danger of cutting towards my other hand that is holding the part up. There's plenty of room on the tractor's tool box, so it won't hurt anything to take them.

Learn to Weld

The first day we baled, I lost three and a half hours to a weld breaking. To fix this, I had to remove the PTO shaft from the baler which took quite a while. Then I drove it to my friend's house to repair. Once back, I had to press a new U joint in. If I were a competent welder, this is something I could have patched while it was on the baler. This would have saved significant time both removing/installing the PTO shaft as well as the drive to and from my friend's house. Hopefully this particular weld doesn't break again, but having the ability to field patch metal pieces is critical.

Test Hay

One of the more expensive lessons learned was to test hay. Then test it again. And again. The hay should be tested in the windrow before the baler is ever started. A few more spot checks after running the baler is also a good idea. I may not like wasting time waiting for the windrows to dry out a bit more, but it's certainly less frustrating than spending hours checking every bale and throwing out a third of them.

Proper Storage

A lot of time could have been saved if proper barn storage was available. The barn I have was meant for animals with a bit of hay storage to support those animals. I've been using it for hay and equipment which means we put hay where it wasn't intended and play musical chairs with equipment. I realize this isn't an overnight fix, but a lot of time will be saved when I'm able to build a more appropriate barn.

Labor

Labor was a significant problem. The quality workers I hired was incredible, and they did a great job. Unfortunately there just wasn't enough labor especially when considering the delays. The biggest problem we had was the first day. I originally planned on a team of two on the wagon and a team of two in the barn. We ended up switching to one person on the wagon and three in the barn. Even then, the baler was producing fast enough that the people in the barn couldn't keep up with the wagons we were filling in the field. There aren't a lot of people interested in making money putting hay up, and even if there were that would obviously drive costs up. I think the best way to solve a labor problem is throw more equipment at it.

This will obviously be a living list that we have to adapt and adjust to as we encounter new situations and problems. I think the best sign of progress is the fact that we don't seem to make the same mistake twice.